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The rare Komodo Dragon is the world's biggest and most powerful lizard. This ferocious hunter, the largest surviving member of the monitor lizard group, grows to a length of ten feet and can weigh as much as 200 pounds. While a few Komodo Dragons live in zoos, the lizard's native habitat is the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Flores, Padar, and some of the Lesser Sunda islands (part of the Malay Archipelago).

Among the animals Komodos attack are deer, goats, pigs, dogs, and, occasionally, humans. They also sometimes attack one another. The three lizards seen here were brought to the Museum from a 1926 expedition to Komodo. The lizard in the foreground of the diorama is beginning to eat a wild boar; the one in the background uses its long, forked tongue, with which it can both smell and taste, to sense chemicals in the air.

The fierce might of the Komodo Dragon -- reflected in its name -- has endowed it with nearly mythic status in popular culture. Yet despite our fascination with this animal, it is legally endangered. While the lizards are now being bred in captivity, their continued existence in the wild depends on the maintenance of their native habitat.